November 2010 Review

November has been another hectic month. On one hand, things were lighter as we wrapped up the last of the gardens still needing some work. On the other hand, administrative tasks and backburner projects have now come to the fore and are taking up a lot of my time these days.

It’s been good catching up on a lot of office work, and nice to know that I don’t have to be out and about as much in the cold weather these days. There’s nothing quite like a big, hot mug of steaming tea to keep you company while you go about your work day.

I’ve been thinking about changing around the stye of my monthly updates (again). A while ago, I tried inclulding more reflections on the months activities rather than just a summary of the activities, but found it to be very long and time consuming to write. While I want to continue writing a summary of the fun and interesting activities that happened over the past month, sometimes I feel this monthly review post isn’t the right forum for it. Some of the bigger events deserved a post of their own like the recent one I done on the CFSC conference (not to mention finding the time to write is always challenging) and some events which were really fun I find don’t always warrant a place in these updates. I have yet to figure out a good system or way to write these reviews, so if any of you have any suggestions, I’m all ears! For now though, I’ll stick with my trusty method of posting about the fun and exciting things this past November.


1. So You Think You(th) Can Cook Content
Through my involvement with the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council, I had the chance to act a judge for the 2nd annual So You Think You(th) Can Cook contest held at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair at the Exhbition Place. Along with renowned Toronto chef Brad Long, last year’s winner Hudson Bernard, and Jeff ODonnell of Foodland Ontario, we were treated to cooking demonstration of 3 young people and their original recipes incorporating Foodland Ontario products.

This was the first time I’ve ever had the chance to judge a cooking contest and was very excited for it. Each of the participants had 20 minutes to prepare one dish (prep work could be done in advance) for the judges to taste and assess out of a 40 point scale. 20 points went to taste, 10 points went to creativity and 10 points went to a third category – something about food knowledge or something like that.

Overall, it was a great event, with the 3 finalists cooking up 3 very different dishes. You can find a link to  the recipes and a video of the first part of the cooking contest.

There’s a lot more I would like to write about my thoughts and experiences (such as cooking styles, presentation styles, tasting notes, judging notes, and more on the contest as a whole, but in the interest of brevity, we’ll leave it here for now.



2. Foodie networking event
Near the beginning of the month, I was invited to a foodie networking event by Wayne Roberts. I forget the exact name of the event, but a whole bunch of people involved in the local food scene and eco-friendly scene were there. It was inspiring to meet and connect with some familiar faces, but also with a number of people I hadn’t met before. One person in particular who I had the chance to meet in person (we had emailed back a forth a couple times several months ago) was Candice Batista. It was great to connect with her, and that meeting eventually turned into another opportunity for me. Which brings me to item #3.

As a random aside, I’m not a big fan of the word “foodie”. I used it in this case more out of laziness, rather than spending the time to finding another suitable word.


3. My First TV Interview
After re-introducing myself to Candice, she mentioned that she was filming a tv episode the following week and was looking for local food initiatives to be featured in it. There was still a spot she needed to fill and invited me to participate. So the following week, I headed out to the local tv studio at recorded a short segment for an upcoming episode of @Issue, which airs on the television station iChannel (aka Intelligent Channel). While the studio was quite small and very unassuming, it was a fantastic experience and I saw a whole bunch of other people involved in the local food scene there for the taping as well.

While I don’t believe this program puts their program online, they did say they will send me a DVD copy of the interview and the tentative idea plan is for the piece to air sometime in the new year.


4. Feature in the Queen’s alumni magazine
This November, I was also featured in the Queen’s alumni magazine. They actually did a whole article about us for the online version of the mag, and a small text box/photo in the print copy. It was great see the article finally go live as I think we got interviewed for it during the summer months, and only now was it going to print.

I’m getting ahead of myself here, but my non-profit organization also was featured in blogTO: link


5. Remembrance Day
November 11 is Canada’s Remembrance Day where we honour and remember our members of the armed forces who have served on duty since WWI. I think I mentioned this briefly in another post, but every now and then, I stop and think about how lucky we are to live in a free and democratic society. It truly is a priceless gift for the countless opportunities we have and something we too often take for granted.


6. Tour of the Ontario Food Terminal
As a followup to the cooking contest, all the judges and participants had the chance to take a tour of the Ontario Food Terminal. The food terminal is usually closed to the public, and is the primary clearing house for fresh produce across Southern Ontario. While this was my second time here, this time, we had a chance to meet with the general manager and learn about the history, key statistics, challenges, environmental initiatives, and general story of the terminal. I’ve been meaning to put together a blog post on this (probably won’t happen), but you can see another review by another person here.


7. Frisbee
Frisbee started again for me this month, and I forgot how intense indoor speed point can be. Even though our games are only an hour, I felt that I was running hard almost non stop. I’m excited for this indoor season as there’s a mix of new and old players on the team. In an interesting turn of events, I figured out where my indoor turf shoes had gone after I thought I had lost them many years ago. It turns out that when I moved out of University, I had left a whole bunch of things in my old apartment including my old turf shoes. The next tenants were friends of ours who also happened to play frisbee, and Steve (the new tenant) just so happened to hang on to the shoes, also happened to be on my team, bring them out to the game, and mention that he thought those shoes might be mine. It looks like the shoes are still in good shape as I don’t think he wore them much – not to mention that I don’t think they fit him all too well anyways. It’s like Christmas came early with an unexpected surprise


8. Chocolate fondue
I just had to write about this. I mean, who can’t resist a chocolate fondue – with all that melted chocolate-y goodness. I must have dipped anything and everything I could find in it including chocolate cupcakes (yum!), mixed fruit (double yum!), veggie sticks (not so yum), pretzels, marshmallows, graham crackers, and more. Thanks to Mike and Wing for hosting us that evening and setting up this delicious fondue.


9. YSEC Pitch Competition
On a bit of a whim, and as spur-of-the moment decision, I entered my non-profit organization into a  pitch competition. The competition was put on by a group called the Young Social Entrepreneurs of Canada (YSEC), whose mission is to promote social enterprises. A week or so after we applied, we were notified that we had been shortlisted as one of the final candidates and were invited to attend the final competition.

In total, 5 finalists were short listed to compete for 2 “prizes”. I put prizes in quotation because the winners end up receiving a $1,000 grant. It was actually quite nice knowing that when we entered the competition, we went in not having an urgent need for the money. Despite that, there were many other reasons why we entered into the competition

  • for the publicity and exposure (especially as a new organization) (featured in BlogTO and maybe another upcoming media mention)
  • for the networking and contacts we would meet (have arranged a number of coffee meetings as a result of the event)
  • for the practice (it’s always nice to brush up and practice your presentation skills)
  • and to refine our story (I can now give off a clear, concise, 30-60 second elevator pitch w/out hesitation)

I kind of gave it away already, but we were selected as one of the winners of the pitch competition. Ron and I went out to celebrate afterward, and it was a nice escape from all of the office/computer work I’d been doing all that previous week.

I’m sure more updates on this and other related things will be coming soon.


10. Speaking Engagement for Food Forward Event
Also a last minute event, I was asked to participate and share my thoughts on entrepreneurship and creating your own opportunities in the food world at an event put on by a new organization, Food Forward. I didn’t really have too much time to prepare, and ended up sharing a lot of my thoughts on entrepreneurship and why everyone should take this initiative. Again, it was a great opportunity, and chance to practice and refine my public speaking skills.


11. Meeting up with old friends
November was also interested in that I met up and saw some friends I hadn’t seen in a while – 1 since high school, and several I hadn’t seen in a year or a couple of years. In all cases, it was nice to catch up and hear what everyone is up to.

That’s it for now. There is probably a lot more I can write about, but I’ll leave it here for now


This month’s closing quotation is about one of my favourite topics: food.

To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art

-La Rochefoucauld

October 2010 Review

October featured a Lot of food related events. Again it was a busy month (I think I’m starting to sound like a broken record), and staying on top of work, emails, and personal stuff was a struggle. I’m glad the month is over, and we’re now in the home stretch as we start to wrap up the year with just 61 days to go. Here’s a recap of some of my memorable and interesting events of the past 31 days.

1. Evergreen and Slow Food Picnic at the Brickworks
This was a fantastic event I’m really happy I went to. You can read my post about this here

2. Soupalicious
Another food event that I had the chance to go to. I’m just finishing up my review for it and should be posting that up shortly.

3. Food Security Coalition Conference in New Orleans
From October 15-18th, I had a chance to attend the 14th annual Community Food Security Coalition’s conference. This year the host city was New Orleans, and I’m really glad that I went. Again a more lengthy blog post is in the works (we’ll see if and when I get a chance to pump it out, though I did write a brief post while I was down there with some initial thoughts here

4. Speaking opportunities
October also gave me the chance to practice my public speaking skills at a couple of different events. The first one was with the Willowdale Green Party and ended up being attended by only a handful of people. Regardless, it was a great chance to hone my presentation skills in an intimate setting, and prepare myself for the next talk with the North York Garden Club. This presentation was almost entirely visual, with lots of pictures showcasing the various gardens that we had setup. It turned out to be a great hit and there were many great comments on the photos we took (the club was doing their own photo contest that evening too!). Who knows – this may end up providing more speaking engagements at other garden clubs across the city.

5. Thanksgiving
As the name implies, a chance to slow down and give thanks for the harvest and for all the wonderful “things” (not material possessions, but things like family and friends, living in a free and democratic country, etc) we have in our lives. It’s something I think we should all do more often – and enjoying some delicious turkey with all the fixings while you’re at it wouldn’t hurt either.

6. Landscape Ontario’s Garden Expo
This was just the show I was looking for and needed to go to! Featuring suppliers, growers, nurseries, and all sorts of other contacts from Southern Ontario, I’ve now got lots of new connections to followup on which will help in my business for next year.

7. Orchestra Concert
Since joining the orchestra in September, we’ve been preparing for our first concert on October 30th. With a large repertoire, few rehearsals, and not much time to prepare, I really didn’t know what to expect going in to our concert. Compounding this was my poor attendance (I made it to less than half of the few rehearsals we did have) and it’s a miracle I/we made it through the entire performance. I’m embarrassed to mention this, but the actual performance had a lot of “firsts” for me.

  • It was my first time I knew there was going to be video to go along with our performance in the first half
  • It was my first time playing with our guest conductor (I didn’t know we had one until he walked out on stage!)
  • It was my first time playing through some of the pieces with the orchestra (thank goodness for youtube and being able to play/follow along with the music to know how my part fit in with the rest of the orchestra!)
  • It was my first time to meet and chat with some of the other members of the orchestra

While most of the audience enjoyed the music (the selection of songs was one very favourable point), I had a chance to listen to a few of the recordings of our performance and have to admit some parts sounded the way it felt – needing a lot more personal and group practice. The orchestra is still relatively new (this is the 3rd year), and it’s still finding its groove, and I’m sure it’ll get even better with time. For our upcoming Christmas concert, we’ve got a much easier repertoire (though still very interesting), and the majority of the pieces were performed at last year’s concert, so it should be a MUCH better performance overall.

8. Garlic tasting event
In addition to planting garlic for a number of my customers in October, I set aside a number of unique varieties to be cooking up and sampling. I invited only a small group of people over due to my limited quantities of garlic, and cooked up the garlic 3 different ways

  1. dry roasted in the oven
  2. stir fried with firm tofu and a dash of olive oil
  3. minced and raw

The original plan was to have 2 sets of 4 different varieties (total of 8 different varieties), however after the first set of 4 varieties, we were all garlic-ed out and couldn’t take any more. When I get a chance, I want to write up a more detailed review including some of our thoughts and notes, but that’s a project for another time.

Odds and Ends
In October, Toronto elected a new mayor – Rob Ford. While I’m not that thrilled about his election, I do still love my city and hope that the next 4 years go smoothly. I had another article published on Food Trotter – this time about the Chinese banquet meal. You can read about it here,

I’m excited for November. It’s looking like it will be that time of year to knock off a bunch of those important but not urgent projects I’ve been putting off for too long. And finally, I’ll leave you with a quotation that I’ve been meditating on recently.

Happy is the man who finds wisdom and understanding for the gain of it is better than gain from silver and profit better than gold.

– Proverbs 3:13,14